To grow your association business you would be wise to spend 30 minutes a day on LinkedIn connecting with association executives and staff. Sometimes a LinkedIn direct message is the only way to get through. It is really quite easy if you are connected to someone that has a large association LinkedIn network like me.
When I present at chapter meetings of the National Speakers Association and when I host my two-day “Selling to Associations Intensives,” I always tell the attendees to connect with me on LinkedIn which will give them second degree access to thousands of association executives and staff. This is truly a no-brainer!
If you pay for the Premium version of LinkedIn and have access the number of second degree connections, that being connected to me gives you, you can grow your association executive connections exponentially. This makes selling to these executives much easier. The paid Premium version of LinkedIn simply allows a greater number (per-month) of searches which is necessary.
I use the “all filters” mechanism to do my searches. Put in the industry “non-profit” and put in the job title “CEO” or “Executive Director” and you’ll be amazed how many association executives appears in the search that you will be second degree connection. To connect to even more association staff like director of communications and others, simply fill the executive director’s or CEO’s association name into the standard (top left) LinkedIn search box. Then when the company’s page (not group) comes up, click on it. When at that page, click on the “company employees” and you’ll see how many you are already second degree to and connect with them—using your pre-written standard request to connect.
I have a standard request to connect (for second degree connections) in a Word Doc that I simply cut and paste. I always type their first name in to personalize it:
I’d appreciate connecting with you. I’m the CEO of a small non-profit & the author of several books including “The ROI of Membership” & “Developing Strategic Alliances”. Growing our connections, I believe, will be mutually beneficial. Thanks, Ed Rigsbee, CAE
After the association person connects with me I follow up with:
Thanks so much for the connection. If I can ever be a resource, please let me know what I can do for you.
If you are interested, and/or would like to share access with your board… articles adapted from my book, “The ROI of Membership” are available at http://rigsbee.com/articles/association-growth/ and articles from my several books on developing strategic alliances are available at https://rigsbee.com/articles/strategic-alliance-success/
Please feel free to help yourself for personal use or publication.
And, if you ever need a speaker on the topics…please keep me in mind. All the best, Ed Rigsbee, CAE
The key is to notice that I’m not directly selling but rather making relationship bank deposits and the very last line above is a soft-sell letting them know I’m a speaker. From this point on, I have several different strategies based on a number of factors. However, this method should give you a jump-start and is to be used in conjunction with my telephone calling strategy—not in replacement of calling.
Recently I was speaking privately with one of the speakers in a mastermind I run…he says, “I don’t have call reluctance, calls just have not been a priority.” Really? This is classic denial call reluctance at its purest form.
If you want to make it in the business of professional speaking…somebody must regularly be on the phones doing outreach. If not you, then hopefully you’ll have a go-getter staff person to make the calls. Sure social media presence and Website SEO help, and yet…phone calls still deliver results faster than any other method of outreach.
It is so easy to “get ready to get ready” in doing other, generally more fun or creative activities. And if you do this, you are lying to yourself. Fear not, there is an antidote…structure.
Here is your plan…set aside an amount of time each morning that is realistic. Also, pick a time to start that is realistic. Have a list and make a personal commitment to yourself to do it. If you are calling associations, pick a vertical that most resonates with you and your message. A great place to find such a list is within the pages of the “National Trade and Professional Associations of the United States” directory. Look in the Subject Index…there are over 400 subjects listed. Pick the industry (subject) that most resonates and you will find anywhere from a few dozen to several hundred associations listed in that subject. This is your vertical-specific prospecting list.
If you live in the west, you’ll most likely want to start your calling at 7 AM as a great number of the associations will be in the east. If you live in the east, then you’ll most likely want to start at 9:30 AM. Pick a time and pick a length of time (perhaps an hour or two) and make the daily COMMITMENT! You will be amazed at how much starts happening…bookings and interest in you…when you systematically get on the phone.
Since the mid-1990s, I have been presenting the topic, “Sell Your Speaking to Associations through the Back Door” at the annual convention of the National Speakers Association (NSA), at NSA chapter meetings, at international speaking associations, and at my own intensive retreats. The noticeable red flag that I most frequently see that stands in the way of speaker success is positioning. Your brand is a piece of your marketplace positioning strategy which is important, however too little time is spent by speakers in positioning themselves in such a way that trade associations and professional societies can buy their services. If they cannot fit you into one of their speaker slot niches or categories, you most likely will not get hired.
Sell to the market, and not your ego
The decision makers that are selecting speakers for their meetings are looking for the value they believe their members need…not your passion! Sometimes the happy coincidence is that they are both one in the same…but not frequently. Associations are looking for both hard and soft skills for their members but not “How Needlepoint Makes You Happy” or other random topics. The topics most desired are traditional to running a successful business or practice…perhaps from a new window? They are not looking for “Chess for Beginners.” You must sell to what the market wants, regardless of your feelings of what they SHOULD want.
Consistency of topic
Nobody is an expert on 10 topics…perhaps a couple? One is always better. When your website offers 10 different topics, you are perceived as a handyman style trainer. Those are the persons that are only getting $500 for a speech…which is okay if that’s your thing. The content experts and thought leaders that have positioned themselves well are the ones getting $5,000 to $10,000, or more, for their speeches. You need to decide on which you are, stick to it, and drive it as part of your positioning. Additionally, be careful of positioning one speech as pro-something and another as anti-the same thing. You must drive your unique expertise in one direction.
Clarity of topic
I once told an attendee at one of my intensives that her topic, “Helping Loved Ones Pass” would not likely sell at many associations. After digging into her material, it was obvious to me that she was really speaking about productivity…which is quite popular with association decision makers. It’s not that you cannot share what you are passionate about but you have to wrap it in a package that sells. Productivity, leadership, marketing, sales, teambuilding, customer service, HR, generational issues, etc. are solid topics for association meetings. You simply have to wrap your brilliance in the common topics so the association decision makers know which “pigeon hole” to insert you into. Do that and they can easily book you for an upcoming meeting!